If you’re wondering “Why do dogs chew their feet?”, then you’re not alone. Many dog owners are concerned about this strange behavior and if they should stop it.
Dogs will chew nearly anything they can sink their teeth into, and their own paws are no exception. If you notice your dog chewing their paws frequently, then this could be the start of a bigger issue.
Let’s take a look at why your dog biting their paws can sometimes be problematic, the many different reasons behind it, and what you can do to stop them from hurting themselves further.
Why Is My Dog Chewing Paws?
Dogs chewing their own paws is common behavior.
Still, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the habit and consider it fully safe. Conversely, it also doesn’t mean you should prevent your dog from licking and chewing their paws altogether.
Being able to tell the difference between normal and problematic chewing is difficult, so let’s list the many reasons why your dog might be chewing their paws down below.
If you notice your dog chewing or licking on their paws occasionally, you don’t have to worry.
Dogs usually lick their paws to clean them. Likewise, they may lick and then use their paws to clean their face and head in the same way a cat would.
This behavior is somewhat rarer in dogs than in cats, however, so you should still watch them carefully and confirm that it’s a cleaning habit.
Dogs have problems with dry skin, especially during the winter or in dry summer months. They may start to lick their paws in an attempt to relieve their itchiness.
Dry skin in dogs may also be a sign that they aren’t eating enough fatty acids, which can help to keep their skin and coat healthy.
Just like humans, dogs can develop allergies. Allergies to pollen, mold, and cleaning products or chemicals used in your home are among the most typical your pet may suffer from.
Eating certain foods may also irritate their skin and cause mass discomfort. Some dogs may have negative reactions to particular proteins such as beef, lamb, dairy, chicken, wheat, eggs, corn, or soy.
However, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact ingredient causing their allergies, since many dog foods use a combination of these proteins.
Your dog may be licking their paws due to an injury, such as a puncture wound, fractured claws, burns, corns, or having some other painful object stuck between the toes.
If this is the case, you will see your dog chewing only one of their paws in an attempt to treat the wound. Try to check both the upper and undersides of the affected paw, between each toe, and every nail for any sign of injury – but only if your dog will let you touch it.
If you have already treated these injuries and still find they are licking their paws, there is no need to be concerned.
According to Psychology Today, dogs have antibacterial enzymes in their saliva that can stave off infections, clean up the injury, and stimulate surrounding cells that will eventually close the wound.
Your dog’s claws are actually very prone to breaking if they become caught in something.
When this happens, the claw will break a little at the base, but will not entirely detach from their paw. This will make it uncomfortable for your dog to walk on that paw.
Untrimmed claws may create some issues, too. If left to grow too long, they may curl inward and even grow into your dog’s paw pad.
This is a more common problem among smaller dogs, due to the shapes of their feet.
Of course, this problem can be easily fixed by cutting their claws and keeping them short, but keep an eye out for any signs of infection – just in case.
They may also lick or chew their paws if they are suffering from more serious conditions, such as interdigital cysts, tumors, cancer, and autoimmune diseases of their nail beds or paw pads.
Fleas, ticks, and mites buried in your dog’s coat will no doubt make them feel itchy. As such, they may try to lick them away or chew them off to gain relief.
Ticks are the easiest ones to pick out, but you may have trouble finding mites and fleas in your dog’s coat.
Psychological Reasons for Dog Biting Paws
Anxiety or Depression
Whenever dogs feel anxious, depressed, or even bored, they may start licking or chewing their own paws, as well as scratching themselves more than usual.
Repetitive licking or chewing acts as a kind of stress relief, akin to people who chew their own fingernails when they are nervous.
In fact, licking, in particular, is known to reduce stress hormone levels in dogs. Mother dogs often spend a lot of their time licking their puppies when they are young, so it is a comforting reflex for them.
You will know your dog is anxious if, on top of licking or chewing their paws, they also excessively pant, urinate, or defecate; are more aggressive than normal; or cry, bark, or whine far more often.
If you believe your dog’s licking or chewing is due to anxiety, it’s best to try and find the source of their anxiety. Loud noises, being introduced to new people or new pets, being separated from you for long periods of time during the day, or an abrupt change in their routine could be the cause of their anxiety.
Your dog may also just be showing signs of their age. Older dogs tend to develop anxiety due to a decline in thinking capacity and memory.
Alternatively, your dog may be depressed. This can be caused by being separated from you for too long or from not receiving enough opportunities to exercise outside. They may also be feeling ill or just generally sad.
Your dog may also be feeling neglected and desire more of your attention. Any reaction to them is a good one, so this behavior is inadvertently reinforced.
They may simply continue to do so because they know it gets your attention.
Canine Compulsive Disorder
Dogs can develop their own form of obsessive-compulsive behavior (or OCD), known as Canine Compulsive Disorder.
This disorder affects up to three percent of all dogs during their lifetime whenever they feel anxious, stressed, or bored.
Here’s a video with more information on dog chewing paws.
How to Stop Dog From Licking Paws
Even if your dog seems to be licking and chewing their paws for no other reason than pure enjoyment, you should still discourage them from doing it too often.
Excessive paw licking or chewing can eventually create skin irritation, pain, inflammation, open wounds, hot spots, a yeast infection, or a harmful bacterial infection.
No matter the reason why your dog is chewing their paws, these remedies are sure to help!
Paw Chewing Remedies and Treatment
For Dry Skin
If your dog is suffering from dry skin, try to determine if it’s from the weather or from a lack of fatty acids in their diet.
If it’s the former, using a skin balm or shampoo made specifically for animals will suffice. Otherwise, add a dash of either olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or fish oil to your dog’s food a few times a week to compensate for their deficiency.
It may be difficult to pinpoint what kind of allergy your dog may be suffering from. As such, you’ll need to try a variety of different things.
You will know if your dog has an environmental allergy if their symptoms improve after you rinse them off when returning from a walk, after they have played outside, or if you have thoroughly rid your home of dust and mold.
Swap out your cleaning products for ones with different formulas, too. If their symptoms improve after this, then stick with these cleaning products from now on.
If these tests fail, then your dog may be allergic to a certain food. Establish an elimination diet until you determine what this food is. An elimination diet is basically when you feed your dog very specific foods (such as one type of protein or dog food) to see if their allergies let up.
Before you entirely cut out certain types of food from their diet, however, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian first. They will help you make the right nutritional changes to your dog’s diet that will prevent further skin irritation.
Of course, if you’re still unsure of the allergy your dog has, you can have your veterinarian perform allergy tests – just in case.
To prevent your dog from chewing up a wounded paw, simply wrap it up in gauze until it fully heals.
Be sure to give your dog their recommended doses of any topical or oral medications your veterinarian prescribes to them, especially if they are suffering from an infection or inflammation.
If your dog will let you, carefully remove any rocks or burrs you find stuck between their toes. This may encourage them to stop their excessive chewing or licking.
If you know your dog has cancer or an autoimmune disease, then they may need to undergo surgery or receive some form of special treatment from your veterinarian.
Using an over-the-counter parasite treatment should take care of the pesky bugs.
However, in the case of a severe infestation, don’t attempt to pick them out yourself! Instead, see your veterinarian about using stronger treatments.
For Anxiety, Depression, or Neglect
To treat anxiety or depression, try to uncover what might be causing them to feel anxious or depressed first. Sometimes it’s as easy as removing the source of stress, or slowly getting them used to it over time.
If your dog has severe separation anxiety, but you have to work or go to school, then simply hire a dog sitter to look after your pet for the day until you get back.
If your dog feels as if you’re not spending enough time with them, then make an effort to play with them instead of sitting down in front of the T.V. or computer and ignoring them.
For Canine Compulsive Disorder
Canine Compulsive Disorder is a behavioral disorder that can be treated with both medication and behavioral therapy from a qualified animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist.
If your dog just has a habit of chewing or licking their own paws, you can simply pour a little apple cider vinegar on their paws to discourage them from this behavior.
If they have any open wounds on their paw, however, do not do this. It will only hurt them more.
You should also bathe your dog’s feet in a mixture of warm water and baking soda every day. This will help soothe any itchiness or discomfort they feel.
This video goes into more detail about dog chewing paws remedy.
When to See the Vet About Dog Chewing Paws
Though you may want to tackle this problem independently, it’s wise to always consult your veterinarian about changes in your dog’s behavior, especially if they’ve shown a sudden or extreme change.
If the behavior persists for a long time, or you notice that your dog’s paws are swollen, smell weird, bleeding, or showing other signs of pain and infection, seek professional help.
Their saliva will turn their feet a pink or red, rusty color after a while, particularly on lighter-colored dogs. You should be especially concerned if your dog is limping after licking or chewing their own paws.
If your veterinarian believes this constant chewing or licking is due to behavioral issues, they may refer you to an animal behaviorist instead.
Animal behaviorists are better able to recommend activities for both you and your dog to help them overcome any stress, boredom, fears, or anxiety they might be feeling.
Dogs will chew their paws for all kinds of reasons.
Being able to determine what reason this might be and how to treat it is extremely useful information for all dog owners to know.
How do you deal with your dog chewing paws?